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Suicidal Thoughts in Your Child or Teen: Care Instructions

Overview

Children and teens who consider suicide often feel hopeless, helpless, and worthless. They may think that suicide will solve their problems and end their pain. They may not really want to die, but they may feel that there's no other choice.

These thoughts and feelings may come from having a mental illness, such as depression. These illnesses can be treated, and your child may feel better.

Take any talk of suicide or wanting to die or disappear seriously, even if it's said in a joking manner. Don't be afraid to talk openly with your child about their feelings. It may not be easy to talk about suicide, but it can help your child feel supported and connected. Support and connection can help protect people from suicide.

Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to know your child's test results and keep a list of the medicines your child takes.

How can you care for your child at home?

If your child talks about suicide, self-harm, or feeling hopeless, get help right away. Call a suicide crisis centre. Keep the number for a suicide crisis centre on or near your phone. Go to the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention to find a suicide crisis prevention centre in your area. You can also call Health Link at 811 or the Mental Health Help Line at 1-877-303-2642 to find help.

  • Talk to your child often so you know how they're feeling. Try to stay calm, be a good listener, and accept that their feelings are real.
  • Make sure that your child attends all counselling sessions recommended by the doctor. Professional counselling is an important part of treatment.
  • Remove all guns and other weapons from the house. Also remove medicines that are not being used.
  • Encourage your child not to use alcohol or drugs.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think your child may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • Your child makes threats or attempts to hurt themself.

Call the doctor or nurse call line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • Your child :
    • Starts to give away their possessions.
    • Uses drugs or drinks alcohol heavily.
    • Talks or writes about death, including writing suicide notes and talking about guns, knives, or pills.
    • Starts to spend a lot of time alone.
    • Acts very aggressively or suddenly appears calm.

Talk to a counsellor or doctor if your child has any of the following problems for 2 weeks or more.

  • Your child feels sad a lot or cries all the time.
  • Your child has trouble sleeping or sleeps too much.
  • Your child finds it hard to concentrate, make decisions, or remember things.
  • Your child changes how they normally eat.
  • Your child feels guilty for no reason.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

Enter Y243 in the search box to learn more about "Suicidal Thoughts in Your Child or Teen: Care Instructions".

Adapted with permission from copyrighted materials from Healthwise, Incorporated (Healthwise). This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any warranty and is not responsible or liable for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.